Since the darkest days of civil war, occupation and deprivation after the 2003 US-UK invasion, Iraq has slowly recovered. The slow and incomplete recovery has happened in spite of continued battles against ISIS. In so far as Iraq is slowly, however unsteadily adapting to its post-invasion realities, many contradictions have arisen.
Iraq’s government is generally Shi’a dominated though vastly less sectarian than earlier post-Saddam attempts at forming governments. In so far as this is the case, Iran continues to consolidate its influence in Baghdad.
However, militarily, Iraq is still deeply dependent on the United States. This is why so many US military contractors remain in Iraq, it is why Iraq cannot conduct a military operation without US consultation and why the vast majority of Iraq’s modern military hardware is US made.
Hence, one sees the contradiction of an Iraq that is quasi-independent but in reality is caught political and some would say spiritual loyalties to Iran, military and economic dependence on the US and what remains of the idea of pan-Arabism. Being caught between the US and Iran is surely not an easy place, but that is exactly where Iraq is.
If latent pan-Arabism and a common political ally in Iran has made Iraq willing to cooperate with Syria in the wider war against ISIS, Iraq’s total submission to battles of attrition against ISIS in war plans drawn by the US, makes it clear that Iraq’s armed forces are part of the anti-Syrian US-led anti-ISIS coalition, rather than the more honest and indeed victorious coalition of Syria, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
It is for this reason that the Iraqi bombing of Hosaiba and Albu Kamal in Syria was highly suspicious. The bombing was announced in a firebrand speech by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi with no word coming from Damascus.
The government of the Syrian Arab Republic has yet to comment though some sources (widely reported by RT and western media alike) claim that the attack was coordinated with Damascus. These claims may yet prove to be false.
Even if the claims are true, it still does not necessarily bode well for Syria.
Iraq has confirmed, as expected, that the attacks were coordinated with the Pentagon. This is no surprise as most movements of even trainee Iraqi soldiers are coordinated in one way or another with the Pentagon.
But what does this mean for Syria? Syria has for years been illegally bombed and occupied by forces and proxy forces of the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, Britain, France and Belgium as well as others.
Is it now fair to put Iraq on this list?
It depends on how one views Iraq. If Iraq is an Arab ally of Iran whose security services maintain good relations with Damascus and if Damascus approved the Iraqi bombing of Syria, then perhaps there is little to worry about.
But if Iraq is seen as a late-stage US puppet state whose army is effectively a branch of the US military, then it means that the bombing of Syria was an illegal bombing by US forces covering their illegality with a supposedly friendly Iraqi flag.
If this is indeed the case, it totally destroys the Saudi propaganda myth about a so-called ‘Shi’a crescent’. Sunni extremists, primarily from the Gulf have promoted a theory that Iran, Shi’a’s theoretically in control of Iraq’s government and Syria are attempting to form a Shi’a power-base from the Levant into Iran.
It would also mean that such acts of aggression against Syria have everything to do with destroying Syria’s political and economic independence, rather than representing an attack on President Assad for being the ‘wrong kind of Muslim’.
Also suspicious is the timing. The Iraqi bombing of Syria comes less than a week after Iraq rolled out the red carpet for US Secretary of Defence James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis and days after anti-Assad war-hawk John McCain illegally entered Syria to hold meetings with Kurdish militias.
One must also look at the logistical realities. If Iraq’s armed forces, even with American aid, can barely defeat ISIS on Iraqi soil, how can they believe for a moment that they can export the battle into Syria? Has Iraq become as stupid as America in wanting to fight a difficult war on multiple fronts or perhaps Baghdad is simply just as naive as many in Washington?
A nation as politically compromised as Iraq cannot yet be a full ally to Syria. Iraq’s military is too heavily dependent on Syria’s enemies to make this so. Donald Trump could, of course, change all this, but he has his own battles with the deep state at home which will take a great deal of time to win, if he can even win them.
Right now, Iraq is best to refrain from any intervention in Syria. Indeed, if Iraq bombed without the full informed consent of Damascus, it was a crime. If not, it was worse than a crime, it was a blunder.